President Donald Trump has reportedly soured on Attorney General Jeff Sessions, privately disparaging one of his earliest campaign allies as the source of the administration’s ongoing legal struggles.
The New York Times, citing unnamed sources, reports that the president’s frustration with Sessions has brimmed for months — in private, Trump has derided the AG’s decision to recuse himself from the investigation into Russian meddling in last year’s general election, and holds Sessions responsible for the continued troubles his travel ban has encountered in federal courts.
Trump made those grievances public Monday on Twitter, criticizing the department for producing a “watered-down, politically correct” version of his original travel ban, a hastily drafted document that stood little chance of surviving judicial scrutiny.
The president’s public criticism of his own Department of Justice — and his ex parte comments regarding a matter currently pending before the Supreme Court — prompted many legal observers, including George Conway III, to castigate Trump for undermining his own lawyers. Conway, an experienced litigator at Wachtell Lipton Rosen & Katz in New York, is the husband of Trump aide Kellyanne Conway. He was tapped to lead DOJ’s civil division, but withdrew his nomination Friday.
In subsequent tweets, Conway indicated that attorneys at DOJ and the White House Counsel’s office with whom he has spoken are of the same opinion.
David Rivkin, an attorney in the Reagan and Bush Justice Departments, told the Times that one should read little into Trump’s management style from the tweets. Instead, he argued, they simply reflect the complaints of an aggrieved businessman who doesn’t believe he’s received the services he requested.
“He’s unhappy when the results don’t come in,” Rivkin said. “I’m sure he was convinced to try the second version, and the second iteration did not do better than the first iteration, so the lawyers in his book did not do a good job. It’s understandable for a businessman.”
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